I grew up in Washington County, Pa., just south of Pittsburgh. This county is recognized as one of the bell weather counties to watch during the presidential election. The electoral map of Pennsylvania looks like two blue islands floating in a sea of red. Those islands are Pittsburgh in the west and Philadelphia in the east along with their surrounding counties, and they dictate who receives the state’s 20 electoral votes. Pennsylvania has not gone red since 1988, but Washington County did vote for John McCain in 2008. Prior to that, Democrats had dominated the county.
Why did voters in Washington County change and vote Republican? The answer is simple. Washington County was built on the back of coal. It is the fuel in the engine that drives the local economy. Voters in Washington County are currently worried because the Obama administration has maligned the coal industry and decreed that it is dirty energy. Voters are cautious concerning our government’s policy about coal energy because they see it as directly affecting their livelihoods.
Washington County is at the center of the Marcellus Shale Plate, a unit of marine sedimentary rock found in much of the Appalachian areas of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. The government’s educated guess is that the plate will produce enough energy to power to United States for six years, but mining companies estimate it is more like 25 years. Because of the Marcellus Shale Plate, unemployment in Washington County is just at 6.7 percent.
Washington County will very likely be an important county in determining who will receive Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. We voters in Christian County can be just as influential in Kentucky. We can change the culture in Kentucky. Many people vow that we are conservative (at least traditional) here. Yes, we have recently voted for the Republicams for president, but we still send Democrats to Frankfort.
Just like it does in Washington County, coal matters here in Kentucky. Because of the recently passed Utility MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Rule and the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, coal plants are closing across the country, and this includes Kentucky. The Utility MACT rule is expected to cost $10 billion per year and destroy as many as 215,000 jobs by 2015. This is resulting in higher electricity costs.
Our dear commonwealth is on the verge of bankruptcy. There will be a very dour outcome if the Kentucky legislature decides to implement Obama Care. Right now there are about 800,000 people on Medicaid in Kentucky. Beginning in 2014, most adults under age 65 with individual incomes up to about $15,000 per year will qualify for Medicaid in every state. This means that 2 million people will be eligible for Medicaid in Kentucky. Since the population of Kentucky is about 4 million — you do the math.
Consider, too, our state’s pension plan. We are facing more than a $30 billion unfunded mandate in the state pension fund. This not only includes state workers but also local government employees. We are among the four worst run states in the union. Thank those incumbents who won’t closely scrutinize our expenditures, and yet we voters continue to send and them back to Frankfort.
When I moved to Christian County, people would tell me when talking about local and state elections, “I don’t vote for the party. I vote for the best candidate.” That may be the biggest myth proliferated here. Perhaps the more accurate response might be, “I vote for the best candidate as long as he/she is a Democrat.” Should we always vote for a candidate because he/she is a likeable, or you knew his/her Dad or Grandmother?
Now is the time to carefully examine the candidates that are running for office. Know what they stand for. The time to change is now. If you want to keep Kentucky from going bankrupt, get involved. We need to become modern day Minute Men and Women. I am not suggesting taking up arms, but I am asking you, if you believe this election is important, to get involved. If you want this state and nation to be like it was for your children and grandchildren, you must be drawn into the political process. Ask yourself which party has been in control of our Kentucky government especially the General Assembly for decade after decade and gotten us into this fiscal mess? Voters, we can change this. We can make history.
We can change the culture of Kentucky. Let’s go down in history as the people who stood up for limited government, free enterprise, individual liberty, a balanced budget and the coal industry. Let’s save Kentucky from bankruptcy. Let’s be remembered as the county that caused a Culture Rebellion in Kentucky.
WILLEE COOPER is a former teacher and military spouse. A Hopkinsville resident, she is president of the Kentucky Federation of Republican Women. Her column runs on the first and third Friday of each month. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.